Showing posts from 2017

Shackleton Whisky

One of my favourite presents for Christmas was an engraved bottle of Shackleton whisky. This is a recreation of a whisky which was taken by Sir Ernest Shackleton to Antarctica in 1907. Slainte...

What3Words - the photo app

what3words is a global grid of 3m x 3m squares where each square has been pre-allocated a fixed and unique 3 word address. 75% of the world suffers from inconsistent, complicated or inadequate addressing systems. This means that around 4 billion people are invisible; unable to report crime; unable to get deliveries or receive aid; and unable to exercise many of their rights as citizens because they simply have no way to communicate where they live. It means that in remote locations water facilities can’t be found, monitored and fixed; and schools, refugee camps and informal settlements remain unaddressed. Even in countries with advanced systems, people get lost, packages aren’t delivered and businesses aren’t found. Poor addressing is costly and annoying in developed countries, but limits growth and threatens lives in developing ones. what3words means everyone and everywhere now has an address. Source: What 3 Words website. Over the Christmas period, they launched a new phot

The Last Jedi

Recommended as a film to watch over the Christmas period...

The Dark is ... reading

Today is Midwinter's Eve: the 20th of December It it today that the action starts in Susan Cooper's 'The Dark is Rising'. This year, I will be re-reading the story in the company of thousands of others in a reading which has been orchestrated by Robert MacFarlane and Julia Bird. The hashtag #TheDarkisReading is trending on Twitter in the UK in the Top 5, so a lot of discussion around the book. I've just read the action that takes place today, as Will Stanton prepares for his 11th birthday tomorrow, and the snow starts to fall, the rooks behave strangely, and "the Walker is abroad"... If you have a copy, join the action, and if not then buy one or get it on Kindle Unlimited or some other way....

Classroom Geographer Journals - memories from the 1970s and 1980s

Christmas holidays are a chance to catch up on the fun projects which have to be pushed to one side during term time. I've got quite a few lined up for the next few weeks to keep me active... One project which has been staring at me for months now is the box of Classroom Geographer journals kindly donated by Neil Sealey. This journal was the first to really offer a chance for teachers to read what other teachers were doing in their classrooms, as there were few opportunities to network in the 1970s and 1980s. There was much talk of the 'New' Geography, and of traditional topics and approaches being replaced by the quantitative ideas of Central Place Theory, statistical models and early simulation games. It was published through the 1970s and 1980s, starting out at 20p per issue (including postage), with around 5 issues a year. It's been a good few hours now spent reading through the journals in date order, and finding interesting perspectives on Geography (so far


This is starting in just over a week's time... I shall be taking part. The Dark Is Rising: A Midwinter Reading Group. Starting this Midwinter Eve (20 Dec), @juliamarybird & I are running a worldwide read of Susan Cooper’s great novel, The Dark Is Rising. Details here: Hashtag #TheDarkIsReading . Spread the word & join us! — Robert Macfarlane (@RobGMacfarlane) December 10, 2017


For the last couple of years, there has been a teacher-led CPD event called Teachmeet HistoryIcons . It was developed by a group of history teachers, and runs very successfully with some sponsorship and support from companies and individuals, which mean the event is free to delegates. The next event is taking place in March 2018. A group of geography teachers has been working on developing a Geography- related event which, with the backing of our History colleagues has now been organised by a rather fine group of  teachers, with a similar logo, and which will be hosted by the lovely folks at the University of Birmingham. It will take place in June 2018. You can sign up to join the Waiting List for a ticket from the Eventbrite page. Tickets are FREE, but SOLD OUT. The event has a keynote from a teacher and an academic, although Teachmeets don't traditionally have a keynote, this one does... and for some reason the very lovely and generous Mrs. Humanities, who is on the organ

#125geotips to come...

As a member of the Geographical Association's Secondary Phase Committee for the last 13 years (with a short break while I worked for the GA), I've presented many times at the GA Conference since, and also been involved in national curriculum change discussions, awarding body consultations for new GCSEs, consultative groups, book reviewing and many other contributions to the work of the GA. Follow us on Twitter too please @GA_SPC This year we are tweeting out 125 Top Tips. We've produced a series of Top Tips before, and you can access or download them all from our SPC page on the GA website. Here's the Advent Calendar that I put together to get the project off to a good start too... Geography Top Tips Advent Calendar by GeoBlogs on Scribd Keep following for the next 125 days, which are also a countdown (or count up) to the GA Conference in Sheffield. 2018 marks the 125th anniversary of the GA, hence the 125 tips Follow us on #125geotips and please feel f

Whatever happened to me...

Although I'd never been to Newcastle when I was in my teens, I knew about it, and the areas that had been cleared for new development, and the working class life which was giving way to those who were 'improving their lives', the growth in home ownership, urban redevelopment and other issues. This was via the lives of Bob and Terry, and Bob's fiancee Thelma, and Bob's sister Audrey. I 'knew' about Newcastle via 'Whatever happened to the Likely Lads'... These are some of the most memorable characters and episodes of TV comedy that have been broadcast. Remember Bob and Terry trying to avoid Brian Glover telling them the result of the England match, the Fancy Dress party and Bob in the dock for fighting. Sad news from a few days ago with the death of Rodney Bewes.

Lost ice and lost meaning

A New York Times article which has a relevance for the work I am doing on Polar regions at the moment, but also a tremendous resonance about the connection between people and ice. I will be adding this to some articles from the ' Earth' magazine , which explore the changing lives of Inuit hunters, and the changing landscapes they now need to navigate. “Inuit are people of the sea ice. If there is no more sea ice, how can we be people of the sea ice?”

Landscapes of Detectorists

Detectorists is one of the best things that has been on the telly over the last few years. Now there is an opportunity to prepare a paper connected with it for the RGS-IBG Annual Conference in 2018. The focus is on Landscapes, and there is no shortage of recent reading I've done that would connect with that, su ch as David Matless 's book 'Landscape and Englishness' and recent work by Rebecca Solnit and Lauret Savoy. I'm almost tempted to put something together as a contribution, but haven't much experience in academic conferences, other than the GTE. The conference strand is described as follows by Innes Keighren: Where “Detectorists” is distinct from most situation comedies is that much of the action takes place outdoors, in the fields and meadows where the programme’s protagonists pursue their hobby. Both aesthetically and thematically, landscape dominates “Detectorists”. Filmed on location in Framlingham, Suffolk—standing in for Essex, and the fict

ECM - new on Spotify

There are a few notable omissions from Spotify - some like Pink Floyd have been resolved, but Peter Gabriel and King Crimson are among the bands who I would like to see added. Earlier this week, I heard that one of the major gaps in the catalogue had been filled with the release of the recordings on the ECM label. I've been collecting albums on this label since the early 1980s... This means we now have access to the catalogue of artists such as Pat Metheny, Jan Garbarek, Keith Jarrett, Ale Moller and Lena Willemark, John Surman and a host of other musicians. I now have plenty more musical inspiration to draw on....

Icebreaker - a great book...

Currently devouring the latest book by Horatio Clare . His last book 'Down to the Sea in Ships' was on the lives of sailors crewing container ships, and was excellent. This book grabs you from the start, with tales of Finland, and the ice in the Bay of Bothnia. It's very nicely written, with beautiful descriptions of the icy seascapes and landscapes, mixed with the signs of climate change that are becoming increasingly apparent. There's one obvious omission from the book: a decent map showing all the locations described so that you can get a sense for how they relate to each other, and the relative positions and distances involved.

Before the Flood


Robot Unicorns - the perfect Christmas gift

New in at my fellow Mission:Explorer Helen's Do it Kits store is a new kit to allow you to make a robot unicorn - perfect for using a micro:bit which were distributed to UK students a year or so ago - I have one too - and these are used to control and move the finished unicorn.

New in the Lego Store...


Follow Leo Houlding's latest adventure...

“It’s 21st-century exploration, at the edge of impossible.” An excellent article in The Financial Times on the latest expedition of Leo Houlding. He is planning to conquer a peak called the Spectre. A few years ago, I heard Leo speak at the GA Conference on a previous expedition to Antarctica, and the logistics of getting there and completing the climb. My notes and some links from that 2015 lecture are here.  He will be using Union Glacier as a base: a location which I have used many times before with students as a place to teach about. The expedition website is here. Good luck to Leo when he heads off next month...

Planetary boundaries

Interesting... the full paper isn't open access, but some ideas explored here...

Geddy Lee Interview

Rush are a band I've been listening to for over 35 years... This is a powerful section from an interview which is being aired this week in the US...

Island Story

Writer J D Taylor spent four months on a bike a few years ago, travelling around Britain and seeing it in a way that many other travel writers have failed to do. The value of cycling is that you see the world at a slower pace, and are actually in the environments you are travelling through. The author has created a very useful blog to follow the journey, and includes a whole range of additional resources and ideas that underpin the journey including some additional writing. You can follow the journey with images and text from each stage of the journey. The book is fantastic to, and I've just been reading it. A part of this journey was a search for the UK's identity as the Brexit vote approached. This is excellent for older students exploring such ideas as Changing Places , and also the GCSE unit on UK in the 21st Century. There is a New Statesmen article here by the author, which identifies some of the themes in the book, which is certainly political in its nature

Monopoly Money...

Alexandra Sims has written in Time Out about the growing property values in London, and how they have risen. In the 1930s, the makers of Monopoly placed 22 iconic London streets on their game board for wannabe property tycoons. Eighty years on, however, the price you’d pay in Monopoly money to own a slice of the capital hardly reflects the twenty-first-century reality. Giving the game a 2017 reality check, London Fox Lettings has used data from Zoopla and the Government’s London Rents Map to show what you’d be paying IRL to rent and own property on the classic game’s streets. To give things an added flavour of authenticity they’ve even replaced the £200 you get for passing 'go', with the £27,531 average London salary, which is growing at a snail’s pace compared to rapidly rising house prices. Here's the infographic.... What Would The Monopoly Board Look Like Today? – An infographic by the team at Splitrent


This is a beautiful film by Al Humphreys who has produced a range of videos and books related to the theme of exploration. It explores the idea of access to land, which in some Scandinavian countries is a 'right' open to all men (and women). They have free access to land and can camp or walk across it. “Don’t disturb – Don’t destroy" is the mantra here. In the UK, there was recently an expansion of the right of access to include CROW land (Countryside Right of Way) Allemansrätten from Alastair Humphreys on Vimeo . Allemansrätten is the right, in much of Scandinavia, for every man and woman to roam the countryside. But with rights must come responsibilities too. Should there be an expansion of this type of rights in the UK? I met Al quite a few years ago now, when he was keynoting the SAGT conference that I was also speaking at, up in Glasgow. I took advantage of this some years ago, when camping in Norway for several weeks and travelling up the coas

Richard Long exhibition

Heading to see this at the weekend - it's just 10 minutes from home... I've loved Richard's work for decades now, and seen all his recent exhibitions... RICHARD LONG: EARTH SKY from NUA Film and Moving Image on Vimeo .

Time for Geography

Time for a new school year. Time for Geography. There are plenty of high quality resources available here at the very nicely designed Time for Geography site. Sign up and log in to help access a whole range of videos, many of which were shot over the summer holiday period, so they are right up to date, and written and presented by subject experts. There are videos on Coasts, Rivers and Glaciation as well as Geog Topics, and some additional resources for those who register too. There are posters for display which can be ordered, plus additional resources and links, and a blog which is underway with some useful posts. Model answers are also provided for some relevant questions. This is a site which has been developed with the support of various organisations, and will continue to grow. I shall be directing my Year 10s to this site as we start the new school year and GCSE teaching.

Reading Geography

"beyond the rigidity of a GCSE exam syllabus, geography is perhaps more than anything else about reading" The University of Cambridge's Geographical Society (CUGS) has a magazine, and there's a great article in the latest Compass by Chloe Rixon which explores her thoughts on the importance of reading as a geographer.... Worth browsing the issues (on ISSUU) for other articles. As Chloe says in her piece, reflecting on her interview when she mentioned Michael Palin as somebody she'd read... What I didn’t realise then, and I think I’m only really starting to realise now, is that, disbanding the academic corset of particular intellectual rigour or qualification, most (every?) writer is in their own respect a geographer. They’re writing about the earth: translating it, interpreting it, constructing it. By extension and implication, therefore, reading too is geographical. Palin may not be a ‘serious’ geographer (whatever that is), nor may be Austen or Plato,

150 years of the Shipping Forecast

There have now been 150 years of the Shipping Forecast. I still catch it occasionally if leaving early to drive somewhere... Here's a lovely animation of it.

Rio Grande

Songs about rivers? This is one of the best... A new variation on the original from David Bedford / Mike Oldfield....

Support Helen for SXSW

I've worked with Helen Leigh Steer for many years now. She's the genius designer who puts together our Mission:Explore books, and I've also worked with her on the distance project with INTEL , and as the Geography author for the growing work of Do it Kits. There are other smaller projects we've worked on too... Latterly, she's become a rising star of the maker education community, and created a number of kits which allow students to explore the Science of Music... I've submitted a workshop for SXSW Edu - please RT and vote for me so I can geek out about #making , #music & #edtech — helenleigh (@helenleigh) August 8, 2017 Helen has submitted a workshop proposal to SWSX Education event, and would appreciate your support. You'll need to create an account before voting up Helen's proposal I've just done this, and the whole process only took a couple of minutes... Thanks in advance...

Iceman Movie

A new movie reimagining the last days of Ötzi is opening next week with its premiere. I wrote a book about him a few years ago, called 'The Ice Man', which is still available to buy. The film is described as follows:  On August 8th at 9:30 pm the movie “Iceman” directed by Felix Randau will be presented to the world at the Locarno Festival. On the “Piazza Grande” the audience will follow closely the fictitious story about Ötzi’s last days and hours. With Jürgen Vogel in the title role, the film speculates on what might have happened on the Tisenjoch some 5,300 years ago – when Ötzi the Iceman was murdered by an arrow striking him in the back. And above all, why? Director Felix Randau focuses in particular on bringing to life Ötzi’s last few days and the circumstances which could have led to his mysterious death. Synopsis: 5,300 years ago in the Neolithic Age. An extended family is living peacefully beside a stream in the Öztal Alps. Their leader Kelab (Jürgen Vogel) has b

The Great American Eclipse

I wonder whether anyone I know is heading to America to see this event... A good swathe of the country will be heading to areas along a long strip of land stretching across the country, where they will be able to see a total eclipse on August the 21st... It may well be the chance of a lifetime for many to see such an event. There's a fantastic ESRI StoryMap made by Mike Zeiler of ESRI below, which tells you all you need to know about eclipses, and this one in particular...

200 000 views

Thanks to everyone who's visited this blog over the years, and commented or sent me books to review, or inspired a post or two... I'll keep on blogging here as well as over on my main blog LivingGeography

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

This book has come into my social media feeds several times, and looks like it is worth exploring further... It's getting excellent reviews. It has been written by Katherine Rundell , and is called "The Explorer". I will probably get a copy next week, and explore whether it has potential to feed into a unit on rainforests, also connected to the idea of survival, or as a reader. It sounds like it connects with the books I've blogged about previously, and also written... 'Survivors" picture book, and my own "Extreme Survival"... Here's the author talking about the inspiration for the story...

Tra la laaaa!

OK, so I started off my summer holiday by going to the cinema with my son to see this film... and it's excellent... Very inventive plotting and animation and I've got just one question #whomadeyourclothes #followthethings

Global reach of Premier League football teams

A Twitter interactive which promises to visualise the tweets which are sent by fans of different Premier League football teams (as they were when the visualisation was created). How global is your team, or compare two teams, or see which are the most popular. Change the scale and have a play. Useful for globalisation, or geography of sport type units. Made by Twitter.

Happy 30th Birthday to ERASMUS

Erasmus is 30 years old. It's facilitated the meeting of millions of teachers and students from across Europe, and I've benefitted from it in many ways over the years. I first got involved with Erasmus through Karl Donert , the President of EuroGeo, and who has spent many years travelling Europe. He asked me to take part in a project called digitalearth towards the end of my time with the Geographical Association. He was keen to get the GA to engage with this European network of teachers, and there was the first of a few opportunities to do that with this network. The digitalearth project has had a great legacy... This took me to Salzburg , back in January 2011, for the first of many meetings and training courses. I found myself in a 3 day meeting with university professors, Headteachers and people with particular skillsets I'd not encountered before. It was a little scary, but also exciting, and we had some interesting cultural events as part of the meeting - a patt

800th post

Just noticed this is the 800th post on this blog... I've shared a whole range of cultural geography type stuff over the years. It's my take on that idea, which is quite broad. I hope you enjoy reading the ideas, and they've been helpful or interesting in some way.. I'll carry on the blog for a while yet I hope... My latest reading is Brian Merchant's book on the development of the iPhone: the most successful consumer product of all time, and one which has become part of our daily life, and through which many access their culture, and determine their 'geography'...

Teachmeet GeographyIcons

There has been a History edition of this event for a few years, and the Geographers have now decided that it may be a good format to adopt... Save the date, and follow the Twitter feed and hashtag for more information as time passes... Will be hosted at the University of Birmingham.

Ice Flows Game - my current project

I've spent quite a bit of time over the last week or so working on a new resource to accompany the IceFlows Game which was developed by Anne Le Brocq of Exeter University. Follow the Twitter feed @iceflowsgame to find out more... The game is available online, and also as an app. It is taking shape now, and should be completed by the end of the month and available for download. The game models the processes going on in ice shelves and ice sheets, and there are plenty of associated resources that will form part of the pack, to help explore the implications of them melting away. With Larsen C close to breaking off to form a huge iceberg, this is an area that is likely to make the news in the coming days.... Why not take a look at the game in the next few weeks as an end of term activity Update Larsen C finally calved a huge iceberg yesterday, just as I was finishing the first draft of the resource pack. There is a tool to measure just how big it actually is by comparin

Meaningful Maps - exploring children's mapping

After the publication of the paper on VR in Education that I blogged about recently, there's a further project that we're involved with. In the last few weeks, students from several year groups have been involved with the Meaningful Maps project by drawing a map of a place that is important to them. These have been completed by some of my colleagues at Kings Ely Junior, and also King's Ely Acremont (thanks to Sarah Stevens for a big pile of maps) The project is being organised by Stephen Scoffham, Peter Vujakovic and Paula Owens. The website is now up and running , and it will develop as more maps come in during the pilot phase of the project which we are involved with.

Summer listening

The second album, out today, is by Public Service Broadcasting . It's a concept album (as all their albums are), and this time the focus is on the coal mining industry , particularly the Welsh one. It was recorded in the valleys, and there are several guests from Wales on the album. This is a very stylish production, with a real sensibility and sensitivity. The album notes explain decisions that were made about what to include, and what to leave out... Aberfan is respectfully left out, but noted in a list of colliery disasters which form part of the CD booklet, along with graphs of coal production. Social history is included in the form of extracts from publicity and recruitment films which talked of hundreds of years worth of coal left to mine... The mood darkens on 'All Out', and there is a wonderful romantic 'You+Me' before the album closes with the Beaufort Male Choir. A portion of the profits from sales will go to the South Wales Area Miners' Benevolent Fun

Summer listening 2....

A couple of music posts coming up... The first is this album, which is out soon, and has an awesome cover. It's a bit like early Fairport, psychedelia, folk-rock and wonderfully atmospheric... Check it out on early streaming (which won't be around forever if you're reading this blog post after early July 2017)

Blast from the past...

Not played this album for years... Bob Mould's dancy phase... Tag it, and make it yours...

Islands: a Radio 4 season

A series of programmes which are being played in a series on Island life . This is available to listen to again for a month or so, so if you're reading this after Summer 2017 you may not be able to hear some or all of them. Thanks to the wonderful artist Ellis O' Connor for the tipoff to this on Twitter. If you're interested in the idea of islands, then these will be well worth following. A list of some of the programmes is here. I'm particularly interested in the sharing of some stories by George Mackay Brown, who is forever connected with the town of Stromness on Orkney. Some will also be interested in a repeat of Bill Bryson's 'Notes from a Small Island' , which is available in five episodes. This connects with the work I am going to be doing over the summer with Peter Knight , funded by an Innovative Geography Teaching Grant. You will see our work on this developing on this website. Image: Copyright BBC - used to publicise the Islands seaso

Japanese Tsunami: and its ghosts...

This is coming in August. It looks really rather splendid, although the extract is harrowing and terrifying... Read the extract from the London Review of Books. There's also a programme on BBC Radio 4 that is well worth watching.

Around the World in 80 Days

A few days ago, Mark Beaumont visited the Reform Club. He was paying homage to Phileas Fogg: the hero of Jules Verne's 'Around the World in 80 Days'. The reason was that after his earlier record breaking circumnavigation by bike, Mark headed off earlier today on an attempt to go around the world in 80 days. I will be introducing the journey to our students tomorrow, so that they can hopefully follow the journey over the summer, and there will be some rewards for those who show some evidence of this on their return in September, by which time Mark will hopefully be well on his way... what an epic journey and physical and mental effort lies ahead of him... To follow the journey, see Mark Beaumont on Facebook, or follow @MrMarkBeaumont on Twitter. The main website for the journey is at Artemis World Cycle. Here's the route: Images: Copyright Mark Beaumont on Facebook/Twitter / The Guardian For teachers wanting to introduce students to the journey, Mark ha

RIP Michael Bond


20 years of Harry Potter

Visit Britain has launched a new interactive map showing some of the locations of films , to mark the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter book. Latest statistics for 2017 show that there were a record 11.8 million overseas visits to the UK from January to April, up 11% on the same period in 2016. Overseas visitors spent £6.2 billion, up 14% and also setting a new record. Latest flight booking data from ForwardKeys shows that bookings for international arrivals to the UK during the summer are currently tracking 12% ahead of the same period last year.  Tourism is worth £127 billion annually to the UK economy, creating jobs and boosting economic growth across its nations and regions.  Thanks to David Jarratt for the tipoff...

Inspirational Places: Changing Places

I've started work on one of my summer projects for this year. It's working with Peter Knight from Keele University to 'translate' some of the ideas in an undergraduate geography module called 'Inspirational Landscapes' into a scheme of work for the teaching of the Changing Places module in the new 'A' level. I co-wrote the Changing Places  section in the Cambridge University Press textbook , along with Garrett Nagle and Claire Kyndt, and wanted to develop it a little further as textbooks are of course a little static. Claire has also since developed quite a lot of new ideas while teaching the topic, and we have also planned some fieldwork experiences, which have had to be adapted a little in light of recent events as it happens. This will explore the interface between school and academic geography (which some people have criticised for the undue influence of academic interests on the new 'A' levels, which have not always been the most st

RIP Brian Cant

For people of a certain age, this was a big chunk of our childhood: Brian's voice on Play School and Play Away, and narrating these classics of animation from Gordon Murray. Another sad passing...

Royal Mail Stamp Issue

An August issue will showcase classic children's toys... cultural geography / social history writ large... or small...

Italian Fieldwork Opportunity

Via Paul Baker VCV Geo Advert Final by GeoBlogs on Scribd

Grenfell Tower

This is a hard topic to write about, but an important one.  Around ten years ago, Dan Ellison and myself put together a bid for the Royal Geographical Society's ' Going Beyond ' Land Rover travel bursary which involves a Land Rover and some cash. Sadly, we were not successful, although a future winner of that grant was Felicity Aston's Pole of Cold trip, which I connected with. The idea we had back then, was of turning the vehicle into what we called our 'space'ship, and we were going to arrive at various locations where we would meet up with prominent geographers and groups of school children, and be guided by them as to the geographies of their place. One of the geographers who'd agreed to meet us was Danny Dorling , who was at the University of Sheffield back then. Danny was going to meet us in Sheffield and take us on a short journey, which would take about 15 minutes, but which would take us from one place to another whose residents had a life e